Wether you can’t make it home for Thanksgiving, or just want to show your friends a good time, having a Friendsgiving celebration is a fine idea.
We want to help you throw the best Friendsgiving celebration possible, so we reached out to a handful of food, drink, and decorating experts to find out how to keep your party on-trend and on-budget.
Think before you start
The most important thing for any party is to edit and simplify your initial vision, says Laura Boyd, lifestyle expert and founder of Strawberry Banke Studio. "We always have grand ideas in our head of how it will look and go, especially when it comes to the special nature of the holidays, but over-complicating can make execution tough and create a stressful atmosphere around your party," says Boyd.
After all, you are throwing the party to entertain and enjoy time with your guests, not be stressed in the kitchen. Having everyone bring something and prepping certain things a night or two ahead can save you a headache or two on the day of, adds Boyd. "Your guests take their cue from the host(ess), so being in a calm, positive place will set the tone for a memorable party."
Stay on budget
Your friends are your friends, and they understand you’re on a budget.
Instead of hitting up a store for trendy decor, consider decorating your home with vintage, autumn-themed finds from an antique store. And instead of buying a wreath or garland, go for a walk to gather leaves, acorns, and twigs to paint and embellish, suggests Zakiyya Rosebelle, author and designer at Sweet Little Luxuries. Add seasonal flowers from a favorite, local florist for added color.
Also: Consider decorating your table with a beautiful, edible centerpiece. “Create a picturesque display of seasonal vegetables like little pumpkins, brightly colored squash, and a cornucopia of fruits,” adds Rosebelle.
“This can make a striking presentation that can come together quickly, affordably, and can later be eaten."
Keep things cozy by lighting candles around your home; dim the lights, and put on a good playlist. “The ambiance will set the mood for the occasion without requiring much set up or spending,” says Alexandria Proko, owner of Alexandria Catherine Events.
Prepare for the crowd
Fabio Viviani, a celebrity chef, stresses the importance of figuring out how much food and drink to have at the party. “For the food, it depends if it is appetizers or a sit down dinner,” says Viviani.
“If it is passed appetizers, I do at least 10 bites per person. So, if there are 50 people, I prepare 500 appetizers. If it is a sit down dinner, I plan for 2 pounds of food per person. This will include the appetizer course through dessert.”
For alcohol, Viviani suggests having enough for at least two cocktails or half a bottle of wine per person. “This really depends on the occasion,” he says, “[but if it’s] a big holiday event, I would plan for more.”
Make one signature drink
Although you’re the host of the event, don’t feel like you have to serve up multiple cocktails to keep your guests happy. Instead, consider serving one signature drink.
A festive cocktail to consider is Our Brews
" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Kombrewcha’s Kom Down Kocktail:
4 oz Kombrewcha Lemongrass Lime
1 oz pineapple juice
¾ oz Aperol
3-4 basil leaves
Lightly muddle 3-4 basil leaves. Add Aperol and pineapple juice in a tall glass. Add ice. Top with Kombrewcha Lemongrass Lime.
Kombrewcha is organic, under 110 calories, contains nine grams of sugar, and is gluten-free.
If you do choose to also serve wine and beer, Sommelier Ashley Santoro of The Standard has a few tips that can help you pair the right blends with your food.
"For white, I’d go Bordeaux blanc; a category that’s overlooked, misunderstood, and undervalued," says Santoro.
"From a consumer and guest perspective, Bordeaux all too often equates to red or high-end. Château Auney l’Hermitage produces both white and red, but their Graves blanc is absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving dinner. While fuller in body, there’s expressive savory notes and acidity that work perfectly [with] slightly richer food."
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If you are planning on 10-15 guests, Santoro says to have at least three reds on your table.
"My dream Friendsgiving would include magnums of Andi Knauss Trollinger (chilled) and Massimo Clerico Lessona, followed by the Paul Barre Château la Grave," adds Santoro.
"These are three wines that speak to their respective region and tell a story.”
Food for friends
Before serving dinner, consider providing a pre-dinner snack; something like a charcuterie and cheese board is perfect for sharing and calming pre-dinner hunger.
Brian Smith and Robert Hagopian, owners of The Butchery in Orange County, California, suggest making a diverse board full of a variety of meats from smoky, air-dried speck to mortadella and salami. Go-to meats include prosciutto, salami, soppressata, and chorizo. Go-to cheeses include gorgonzola, aged cheddar, goat cheese, and Manchego or Parmesan.
Smith and Hagopian suggest combining complementary and contrasting flavors. Consider providing a small table full of mustards, honey, nuts, and dried fruits, such as apricots and figs, and fresh fruits, such as pears and apples, as well as cured olives and pickles. Add crusty bread, crackers, breadsticks, and crostini for textural contrasts. A good rule of thumb for serving is to offer 1 to 2 ounces of meat and cheese per person.
For dinner, Proko suggests keeping things fun and seasonal. "This season is all about putting a modern twist on a classic. Serve a sweet potato appetizer or mini desserts incorporating seasonal favorites like pumpkin and apple,” she says.
Proko adds that you shouldn’t feel pressured to make a traditional Thanksgiving feast. “Set up a DIY panini station with turkey as the shining star, or even a mashed potato bar where guests get to go wild with toppings.”
If you’re looking for a more traditional dish, consider the following recipe, courtesy of Brooklyn Supper. It's a perfect side dish that serves four to six people.
Baked Butternut Squash Polenta Skillet with Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 2 hours
Total time 2 hours and 15 minutes
1 teaspoon neutral cooking oil
1 small butternut squash, trimmed, halved, and seeded
1/2 cup polenta
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 cups water
2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 28- ounce can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
2 bay leaves, fresh if possible
2 tablespoons minced parsley, plus more for garnish
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Rub squash on both sides with grapeseed oil. Set on a small rimmed baking sheet sliced side down and cover tightly with foil. Bake 40 - 50 minutes or until squash is cooked through and easily mashed with a fork. (Be mindful of the steam plume when lifting foil to check on squash.) Squash can be made ahead and kept covered in the fridge until needed. When ready to use, scoop flesh out of the skin and mash with a fork. Reserve 1 cup.
If you've made squash ahead of time, heat oven to 400 degrees F, otherwise, just leave it on.
To make polenta, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Add polenta, stir to toast briefly, and then gradually whisk in boiling water and a 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Stirring often, cook until mixture starts to bubble; then turn heat to medium-low and cook 10 minutes or until polenta has thickened.
Add 1 cup reserved mashed squash and stir until mixture is smooth.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 9-inch skillet or other deep-sided ovenproof vessel. Pour in polenta and slide into the oven. Bake until polenta is golden on top and the edges are crisp and pulling away from the side of the pan, 50 - 60 minutes.
Meanwhile, make tomato sauce. In a medium-sized saucepan oven medium heat, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in shallots and sauté 5 - 7 minutes. Add vinegar, cook 2 minutes or so, and then fold in diced tomatoes, a pinch sea salt, bay leaves, and black pepper to taste. Bring to a gentle boil and then turn heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato sauce is quite thick, about 15 minutes. Fold in parsley, remove from heat, and set aside.
Once polenta's cooked, spoon tomato sauce onto the center, arrange mozzarella on top, and finish with parsley and black pepper. Bake in a 425-degree oven until cheese is melted and bubbly, 10 - 12 minutes. Cool briefly, slice, and serve.
Keep the activities simple and sentimental
Proko suggests having your friends help you transition into the holiday season by decorating a holiday tree together. Or have everyone share memories of their families' Thanksgivings. “Everyone has different traditions and a story to share... Encourage them to tell the group,” she says.
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